Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Tuesday Talk-Time - Talking Writer Respect

Pink Heart Society columnist Barb Han is talking about how writing doesn't always command the respect it deserves...

Over the weekend, I met up with my newly divorced sister-in-law for lunch. Granted, she lives in another state and we hardly see other. Also, she’s never once asked what I do for a living. Even so, one sister lives nearby, the family talks and I’d assumed that she knew when I left my corporate news and feature writing job more than a decade ago that I’d done so to seriously pursue a career writing fiction. 

So, it came as quite a shock when, over her tamales and my grilled chicken and vegetable lunch, she looked at me blankly and asked if I’d gotten a job. 

In her defense, the conversation up to that point had been all about her. She’s been through a lot of changes in the past year since her husband surprised her with the announcement that they were divorcing. The news had come out of the blue for her and had been devastating. A lot has changed in the past year. She’s accepted a job in California, which has always been her favorite state, and is moving next summer. She loves the people at her new job. She has started wearing makeup. She seems more at peace with herself. She’s open, ready for the next adventure and to see what life brings. 

Her transformation has been amazing and I’m genuinely happy for her. I wish we could see that same makeover in people’s attitudes toward working fiction writers and I’ll start with hers.

My husband’s family is a lively, animated bunch around the table and often times you have to shout to be heard. I’m more of the quiet observer type. I usually talk to the kids rather than vie for adult attention. It has never bothered me. I actually like young people. 

Still, I’d been operating under the assumption that my in-laws knew what I did for a living. So, over the course of lunch when I mentioned that I’d gone back to work on Friday (following Thanksgiving break here in America), she looked at me, shocked, and asked if I’d gotten a job. I told her that I’ve always had one, that I’m a writer. Her reply was, “Oh. That. You work from home, right?” 

I said that I did. And then she shocked again with the comment, “Oh. I thought you meant like a job. You know, one with a stressful commute. Working from home is different.” And then she dismissed my career as a hobby that I make a little money from on the side. My response was something like, “I don’t work like a hobby, I work like the USA TODAY Bestselling author that I am. One who has six books coming out next year.” 

Yeah, I was defensive. 

The ironic thing is that I know she didn’t mean to insult me or my profession. She actually likes me. She breezed past my comment and refocused on how she’s recently taken up paddle boarding. My husband was there and he looked at me with a mix of apology and embarrassment. In the car, he shook his head and said, “That has always been your struggle, hasn’t it. People thinking that you sit around all day doing nothing and write a little bit when you finally feel inspired.” 

When we got home and told our kids what had happened, they laughed. Hysterically. They, along with my husband have been by my side through all the joys and heartache. They’ve supported me through long days that stretched into nights and weekends. They’ve been on this journey every step of the way, cheering with each success. And maybe that’s the best that I can hope for. That everyone who really knows me realizes how hard writers actually work. 

This morning when my teenager left for school, he stopped at the door and said, “Have fun not working today, Mom.”

I retorted, “Don’t learn anything in school today, either.”

We laughed. 

And, you know, that was enough for me.

What about you? Have you had friends or family question the legitimacy of writing as a career?  Join the debate in the comments.

Barb's latest book, Texas Takedown, is out now:

He’s facing trouble as big—and unpredictable—as the Texas terrain 

For security expert Dylan Jacobs, his little daughter is a light against the shadows of his past. But when the sexy ex-soldier locates missing Samantha Turner, the shadows return. Samantha is convinced their childhood nemesis—the Mason Ridge Abductor—is back. And that he’s hunting her. 

Amid a hail of gunfire, Dylan commits to keeping Samantha safe—then nearly crumbles when his own child disappears. So when the villain poses a vicious ultimatum—turn over the woman he loves or never see his beloved toddler again—Dylan knows what he has to do. Put plan B into action.

You can find out more about Barb Han's writing on her website and Goodreads. Follow her on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest for regular updates and pretty pics!


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  2. I love your interchange with your son. :) Unfortunately, what you say is true more often than not. Glad you've got such awesome support at home.

    1. Hi Julie! *waving wildly*

      Teens can be hilarious! I'm glad he has such a sense of humor about these crazy things in life. It's a good life skill. :-) And, I'm doubly grateful for all the family support I get at home.

      On a side note, I had no idea that I had to actually leave the house and drive somewhere to be seen as having a real job. LOL. It's crazy logic, isn't it.

      Have a great writing day!

  3. My family is always saying "you are not a writer because you haven't published anything". Well you have to start somewhere. I am working on finishing my novel which i plan to try to publish. It is frustrating when they look at you like what you do isn't a real job. I may not make money off mine at this moment but I plan to one day.

    1. As long as you take your writing seriously you're a writer, Jaime!

      Sadly, I heard that too many times before I was pubbed, too. I guess I assumed that once I got published (and paychecks) there'd be a degree of respect that came with that...not so much. It's so crazy!

      You have the right attitude and you're going to do well in this business! Keep at it and you'll get there!! And stay in touch! I want to help celebrate when you get your first book published, okay?

      Happy writing!

  4. I'm in the same boat as Jaime. My family and non-writing friends hear "I'm writing" and tend to interpret it as "oh, so you're not actually busy or doing anything important right now." Unfortunately, I have to blame myself quite a bit for letting them get away with intruding on my writing time. I've been working on making writing a top priority in my life, but it's been a real challenge. I know that in order to get everyone else to take me seriously as a writer, I have to take myself seriously as one first. For me, that's been easier said than done. I'm not giving up, though. I love writing, and I'm determined to make sure everyone knows it! (And that I never forget how much I love it!)

    1. The attitude--"oh, so you're not actually busy or doing anything important right now."-- is probably more common than we realize. And even after getting published I'm surprised to see how many people still see my career in that light. It's a struggle we all share and (I think) especially romance writers.

      Stay determined and they'll follow your lead! And keep your love of writing at the forefront. It can be easy to lose sight of that at any point along the way. :-)

      Best of luck and keep us posted!!

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